Prosecutors to investigate Bolsonaro’s push for chloroquine production


Lucas Furtado, the top prosecutor at the Federal Accounts Court — a sort of audit tribunal that monitors public spending — has opened an inquiry over possible overspending by the federal government in its effort to produce antimalarial drug chloroquine. According to Mr. Furtado, President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration dedicated considerable resources towards producing the drug “with no medical or scientific proof that it is useful in treating Covid-19.”

Since the start of the pandemic, Mr. Bolsonaro has been a staunch supporter of chloroquine in treating Covid-19 patients — despite a lack of scientific backing — going as far as raising a box of the medicine in public on multiple occasions, reminiscent of the opening scene of The Lion King, anointing chloroquine as the “cure” for Covid-19.

As of June 23, 4.4 million pills of the drug have been distributed by the Health Ministry to all Brazilian states and at least BRL 1.5 million (USD 281,352) have been invested in producing the drug, according to Débora Melecchi, member of the National Health Board (CNS).

Manufactured by the army, production of the drug in Brazil has increased by 84 times over the past few months, according to the Federal Prosecution Service.

Mr. Furtado also suspects the government overspent on acquiring the necessary materials to produce the antimalarial drug. The recent purchase of materials from India cost six times more than what the Health Ministry spent over the entirety of 2019 in producing the drug.

On June 17, the World Health Organization (WHO) banned chloroquine from its official Covid-19 treatment protocol. The drug is also linked to negative side effects such as cardiac complications and increased risk of death among some Covid-19 patients.

If found guilty of overspending, Mr. Bolsonaro could be fined, while his insistence on producing the drug without any scientific-backing could be later prosecuted as an impeachable offense, adding to the mounting pile of impeachment requests against the president.

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